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1129 Experiencing Virtual Reality

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,129 – Experiencing Virtual Reality.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,129. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at ESLPod.com. Why? Well, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode. If you become a member, you can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store that has additional courses in Business and Daily English, I'm sure you will like.

This is an episode about experiencing virtual reality. What is virtual reality? We'll find out in this episode. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Tatiana: Why are you wearing those funny goggles?

Moustafa: I’m trying out a new kind of virtual reality.

Tatiana: You mean like flight simulators?

Moustafa: This is much more sophisticated. This system creates a complete sensory experience. I can see, hear, feel, and nearly taste this 3-D simulation.

Tatiana: I don’t see how it can do that.

Moustafa: With the help of these goggles and headphones, this computer program recreates what it’s like to actually be in a particular place, at a particular time. It even allows me to interact with different people and things.

Tatiana: I can see how that would be useful for gaming, but...

Moustafa: It’s not only for gaming. It’s useful for a host of other things, including relaxation. For instance, right now I’m experiencing what it’s like to be outdoors with the sun shining and the birds chirping.

Tatiana: If you open the door, you’ll see that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

Moustafa: Yes, but with virtual reality, I may never have to get out of this chair again. Now isn’t that progress?

[end of dialogue]

Tatiana asks Moustafa, “Why are you wearing those funny goggles?” The word “funny” here means odd, strange, or unusual. We also use the word “funny,” when something makes us laugh. But here, it's used to mean weird, or strange. “Goggles” (goggles) are things that you wear over your eyes like eyeglasses to protect them. The difference between regular eyeglasses and goggles is that goggles have protection on the side so that your eyes are completely protected or surrounded by the glass or usually, it's plastic that goggles are made out of. Sometimes, there's a combination of rubber and plastic for goggles.

Moustafa says, “I'm trying out a new kind of virtual reality.” “To try out” is a two-word phrasal verb that here means “to test something,” “to do something for the first time,” especially when you are trying to determine whether you like it or not and or whether you want to buy it or not. “To try out” can also mean to try to become a member of a team. That use of the phrasal verb is more common in schools. You can “try out” for the basketball team. You can try to become a member of the basketball team. But here, “to try out” means to test something. “Virtual reality” is a computer-made or computer-generated experience. Usually, it involves you wearing a special device that look like goggles that you put on your head, and it seems as though you are in a different place, or experiencing something that is not real. That's the meaning of the word “virtual” (virtual) in this phrase or term.

Tatiana says, “You mean like flight simulators?” A “flight (flight) simulator (simulator)” is a machine that is used to teach people how to fly an airplane. You're not actually in the airplane, but you're in a special machine that makes it seem as if you were in an airplane. “Flight simulators,” I guess, are a kind of virtual reality, but the virtual reality that people talk about nowadays usually involves something more sophisticated and often with just something over your eyes, or perhaps something in your ears, and over your eyes. Moustafa says, “This is much more sophisticated.” The word “sophisticated” (sophisticated) means here “advanced,” “more complex,” with more technology. He says, “This system creates a complete sensory experience.” The word “sensory” (sensory) relates to the five senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Those are called the “five senses” (senses). Then, of course, there is the “sixth sense,” which is talking to dead people. You have to see the movie to understand what I mean by that.

Moustafa continues, “I can see, hear, feel, and nearly taste this 3-D simulation.” Well, I doubt it can feel anything although it's possible. A “3-D simulation” is a “three-dimensional” – “three-dimensional” refers to height, length, and width. Of course, it only seems as if it were 3-D. The real world is 3-D. But when you watch a movie, even a movie with virtual reality goggles, it isn't actually in three dimensions. It just seems as if it were. A “simulation” is a situation where you’re making something seem as if it were real even though it isn't.

Tatiana is confused. She says, “I don't see how it can do that.” Moustafa replies, “With the help of these goggles and headphones, this computer program recreates what it's like to actually be in a particular place at a particular time.” “Headphones” are things you put over your ears in order to hear music or some other sound that has been recorded. The verb “to recreate” (recreate) means to copy how something happened or how something was done, to give someone a similar experience. What Moustafa is saying here is that there is a computer program that allows you to recreate what it's like to be in a particular place and a particular time. Once again it's really like watching a movie that makes it seem as though you are there in the action. And that's what a 3-D movie tries to do.

Moustafa continues. “It even allows me to interact with different people and things.” “To interact” means to talk to or to communicate with another person. Tatiana says, “I can see how that would be useful for gaming, but…” “Gaming” (gaming) means playing video games, something that is very popular nowadays among many people but not me. I grew up in the late 70s, early 80s and video games were just getting started at that time and I never really got that interested in them but I know they are very popular among millions of people, just not me. Well, Tatiana thinks this virtual reality machine would be useful for gaming but she doesn't seem to think it would be useful for anything else. Moustafa disagrees, “It's not only for gaming,” he says. “It's useful for a host of other things including relaxation.” A “host (host) of something” is a large number of something. Moustafa is saying that virtual reality goggles can be used for many different things, including “relaxation” – the act of becoming calm. “For instance,” Moustafa says, “right now,” meaning at this time, “I'm experiencing what it's like to be outdoors with the sun shining and the birds chirping.”

“To be outdoors” (outdoors) means to be outside, not in a house or a building. The sun “shines” (shines) from the sky. “To shine” means for a light to be produced. The sound that birds make is sometimes described using the verb “to chirp” (chirp). We talk about birds “chirping.” In fact there's a bird chirping outside of my window right now. So, Moustafa is saying that he can experience things such as being outside in the sunshine with the birds chirping. Tatiana says, “If you open the door, you'll see that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping,” meaning in the real world.

Moustafa says, “Yes, but with a virtual reality I may never have to get out of this chair again.” He's saying that he will never have to get out of his chair to stand up and leave his house. He says, “Now, isn't that progress?” “Progress” (progress) is an improvement over time, often used when we're talking about technology, although I'm not sure if everything that technology has brought us has resulted in progress.

Now let's listen to the dialogue this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Tatiana: Why are you wearing those funny goggles?

Moustafa: I’m trying out a new kind of virtual reality.

Tatiana: You mean like flight simulators?

Moustafa: This is much more sophisticated. This system creates a complete sensory experience. I can see, hear, feel, and nearly taste this 3-D simulation.

Tatiana: I don’t see how it can do that.

Moustafa: With the help of these goggles and headphones, this computer program recreates what it’s like to actually be in a particular place, at a particular time. It even allows me to interact with different people and things.

Tatiana: I can see how that would be useful for gaming, but...

Moustafa: It’s not only for gaming. It’s useful for a host of other things, including relaxation. For instance, right now I’m experiencing what it’s like to be outdoors with the sun shining and the birds chirping.

Tatiana: If you open the door, you’ll see that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

Moustafa: Yes, but with virtual reality, I may never have to get out of this chair again. Now isn’t that progress?

[end of dialogue]

If you want to make progress with your English, just keep listening to the wonderful scripts by our wonderful script writer, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.
Current Uses of Virtual Reality

For many people, “virtual reality” is simply a “gaming platform” (a technology used to play video games), but others are finding more “practical” (useful) “applications” (uses) for the technology. This is especially true in medicine.

For example, virtual reality is being used to train “surgeons” to perform “delicate” (requiring careful, small movements) operations by allowing them to practice “techniques” (ways of doing things) in a virtual reality environment before they ever work on a real patient.

In other medical “settings” (environments), researchers have found that virtual reality can help “amputees” (people who have had an arm or leg cut off) “overcome” (no longer suffer from) “phantom pain” (feelings of pain in a body part that is no longer part of one’s body). Apparently, patients who report phantom pain can use virtual reality to “see” the missing limb and “control” its movement, which reduces or “eliminates” (gets rid of) the pain. Medical care providers have also begun using virtual reality to “distract” (divert attention; help someone avoid thinking about something) patients during painful operations or treatments.

“Returning soldiers” (people who fought in a war and are now back and no longer fighting) who suffer from “post-traumatic stress syndrome” (intense, frightening, and stressful feelings related to one’s past experiences) can use virtual reality with “supervision” (with another person monitoring and controlling the technology) to “relive” (experience again) their experiences during the war and learn to control their reaction to those memories and feelings.

Similarly, teachers are using virtual reality to help children with “autism” (a disorder that makes it difficult for people to control their emotions and interact with others) improve their ability to interact with others and “express” (show and share) their “emotions” (feelings).

Glossary
funny – odd, strange, and unusual

* Why are you making such a funny face? Don’t you like the way the food tastes?

goggles – something worn over the eyes to protect them, like glasses, but with sides that touch the skin all around the eye

* Swim goggles should fit tightly, so that they keep the water out of the swimmer’s eyes.

to try out – to test something; to do or experience something for the first time, especially to determine whether one likes it and decide whether one wants to buy it

* Have you tried out this new treadmill? It’s easier and more comfortable to run on.

virtual reality – a computer-generated experience that completely surrounds a person and seems real or almost real

* Astronauts use virtual reality to simulate flights and train for when they’ll actually be in a space shuttle.

flight simulator – a machine that gives the user the impression that he or she is flying, used to train pilots

* How many hours do pilots have to spend in the flight simulator before they’re allowed to fly real planes?

sophisticated – advanced and complex, with a lot of modern technology

* The company invested in a sophisticated online ordering system, but it was too complex for customers to understand how to use it.

sensory – related to the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound

* Going to a loud movie theater sometimes provides too much sensory stimulation for young children.

3-D – three-dimensional; not flat or two-dimensional; with height, length, width, and depth, or appearing to have those qualities

* Wearing these strange-looking blue and red glasses allow movie-watchers to see the film in 3-D.


headphones – a device worn over the head or behind the neck, with pieces that fit into or over each ear, used to transmit sound directly to the person, without allowing that sound to be heard by other people nearby

* Biking while wearing headphones is a bad idea, because they don’t allow the biker to hear approaching cars.

to recreate – to create something again; to try to copy how something happened or how something was done in the past to give people a similar experience

* Every year, volunteers recreate the great battles of the American Civil War.

to interact – to affect other people and be affected by them; to react to other people as they react to oneself; to act in relation to others

* The principal likes to visit classrooms to see how the students are interacting with their teachers.

gaming – the playing of video games; the playing of games on a computer, possibly online and/or with other people

* Teenage boys are watching less TV nowadays, but they spend hours gaming instead.

a host of – many; a large number of

* The software testers found a host of problems that the programmers will have to fix before we can make the software available for sale.

relaxation – the act of becoming calm and not tense, worried, or stressed

* Classical music, a nice massage, and a cup of hot tea are great for relaxation.

outdoor – outside; not inside; not in a building

* They spent all day Saturday outdoors, riding kayaks and bicycles and going on long walks.

to shine – for a light to be produced; to produce a light

* The spotlight shone on the violinist.

to chirp – for a bird to make a high-pitched singing sound

* Do you know what it sounds like when a robin chirps?

progress – advancement; improvement over time, especially related to technology

* The economic progress in this country is amazing! Ten years ago, hardly anyone had a cell phone, but now, almost everyone has one.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Tatiana refer to when she asks about the “funny goggles”?
a) Moustafa’s jacket
b) Moustafa’s gloves
c) Moustafa’s eyewear

2. What is a flight simulator used for?
a) To help people overcome their fear of flying
b) To teach air traffic controllers how to direct planes
c) To teach pilots how to fly airplanes

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
funny

The word “funny,” in this podcast, means odd, strange, and unusual: “They chose some funny paint colors for their home’s interior.” The word “funny” often means humorous, referring to something that makes people laugh: “Justin always tells such funny jokes.” Sometimes “funny” means uncomfortable and difficult to explain: “Trent had a funny feeling that the proposal wouldn’t be accepted.” The phrase “funny money” refers to counterfeit, or money that is printed illegally: “Don’t try to pass any funny money here. The cashiers are trained to inspect each bill.” Finally, the phrase “funny bone” describes the part of the elbow that is extremely painful when it is hit: “Ouch! I just hit my funny bone on the door frame, and it hurts!”

a host of

In this podcast, the phrase “a host of” means many, or a large number of something: “The doctor took notes as the patient listed a host of medical problems.” Normally a “host” is the person who organizes or a party and invites the guest or provides the party space and/or food: “Don’t forget to thank the host for the lovely party before you leave.” When talking about a TV show or radio program, the “host” is the person who introduces guests and asks them questions: “The host usually interviews one celebrity and one politician on each show.” Finally, when talking about a student exchange program, the “host family” is the family with which the student lives while studying in another country: “Yuki brought chopsticks, packaged foods, and toys as gifts for her host family.”

Culture Note
Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c